Sociology Graduate Students Represent UCF at National SWS Conference

Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) is an organization dedicated to employing feminist research and scholarship to advance women in society. Founded in 1969 by a group of 20 dedicated scholars, the organization provides a network for women in the discipline and is firmly committed to feminist leadership and activism both in the United States and abroad. SWS hosted its national conference this summer in early August. Five UCF graduate students –Chelsea Belanger, Jacquelyn Fernandez-Reiss, Deborah Griffith, Alana Innerbichler, and Ashley Stone – presented their research at the conference, which was held virtually due to the global health pandemic.

The UCF graduate students who presented at the SWS conference were encouraged to participate by their faculty advisors Drs. Shannon Carter and Lin Huff-Corzine. Both faculty advisors emphasized the importance of attending the conference for specific reasons. First, the conference would allow graduate students to become involved with the organization and become part of a network that centers feminist scholarship. Second, attending the conference would provide an opportunity for graduate students to learn from other scholars, and become more proficient in their research areas. Third, graduate students would be able to engage in professional development by presenting their research and receiving valuable feedback from other scholars.

Drs. Carter and Corzine were not only integral to encouraging students to present at SWS, but also supported them as they prepared for the conference, providing points of insight on presenting in a virtual roundtable format, and reviewing drafts of abstracts and papers.

SWS is known for its platform on the “encouragement of sociological feminist theory, scholarship, and the promotion of social justice through the support of publication of cutting-edge feminist social science” ( In keeping with this theme, our graduate students took this opportunity to present their research for active engagement in the sharing of ideas and diverse perspectives from peers and scholars in sociology.

  • Chelsea Belanger focused on perceptions of race and racial inequalities in Texas pageantry. Based on the theoretical framework of intersectionality, an analysis of the history of racism in American beauty pageants, specifically lack of Black representation, the upholding of Eurocentric beauty standards, and the historical crownings in 2019 that resulted in greater representation of Black titleholders at the national and global levels in mainstream pageantry.
  • Jacquelyn Fernandez-Reiss presented research on transgender and gender non-binary individuals’ experiences with sexual and reproductive healthcare. Drawing on data from 60 in-depth interviews, she illustrated the ways in which some healthcare providers reinforced cisnormativity through healthcare settings and encounters whereas others transcended it. 
  • Debbie Griffith explored the cultural significance of “The Talk,” considered a rite of passage within the Black community and a tool to understand racial socialization within Black families on how to address the effects of systemic racism in our legal system, specifically interactions with law enforcement. This research is aimed specifically at interpreting meanings, concepts, definitions, and characteristics of behaviors and attitudes of awareness on engagement with police during traffic stops through the lens of critical race theory and colorblind ideology. Her research also examines the effects of social standing, race, and how exposure to racism influence these interpretations.
  • Alana Innerbichler contributed to the macro-level conversation surrounding the lack of inclusivity and diversity within gender studies literature, with a research focus on the need for more transgender voices in quantitative studies and updates on (non-binary) vernacular within the field of LGBTQIA+ studies.
  • Ashley Stone focused on the segregation of Black women from the canon of sociological theorists. Using Adia Harvey Wingfield’s concept of systemic gendered racism, she explored the role of racism and sexism that lead to the exclusion of Black women theorists such as Anna Julia Cooper and the Combahee River Collective from the sociological canon. She discussed the use of Black feminist thought as a praxis for analysis of their scholarship and how its inclusion would expand understanding of the social world. Additionally, she discussed the emergence of Cite Black Women, a crucial movement advocating for the inclusion and proper contextualization of Black women’s scholarship in all academic disciplines.

The UCF graduate students found that SWS provided an excellent opportunity for engagement with peers around issues of social justice within a space dedicated to the development of sociological feminist leadership and institutional diversity. They shared the following insights:

-“I received valuable insight into my research and several directions that I could take to advance the project.” Ashley Stone

-“It provided an opportunity to present my research among peers, expanding my network of colleagues and developing avenues for collaboration on ways to advance my research.” Alana Innerbichler

-“This conference was a welcoming glimpse into this new modality of virtual sharing of research interests.” Chelsea Belanger

-“Participating within a virtual format allowed for an intimacy not often experienced when engaging face to face.” Debbie Griffith

We look forward to continued engagement with this organization and are already planning our submissions to the 2021 Winter Conference.

Ashley Stone, M.A.

Deborah Griffith, M.B.A

Chelsea Belanger, Ph.D. Candidate

Alana Innerbichler, B.A.

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